While enjoying the festive period, remember to practice safe sex and avoid getting a gift you won’t forget – that is the message from the Public Health Agency (PHA).
The PHA is reminding those who are sexually active to protect your sexual health, and that of your partner, by being safe and using condoms. The most recent figures for Northern Ireland (2011) show that while new sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses decreased slightly by 2% compared with the previous year, new HIV diagnoses rose by 3%, (from 80 new cases in 2010 to 82 new cases in 2011).
The number of people living with HIV infection increased by 10% compared with 2010 (from 474 to 522 people). Of those receiving care for HIV, 97% (506 people) acquired their infection through sexual contact.
Dr Bernadette Cullen, Consultant in Public Health, PHA, said: “We want to remind sexually active people of the dangers of HIV and STIs, and the importance of safer sex practices, particularly during the festive period and perhaps while people are in a more relaxed mood.
“Untreated STIs can result in serious health issues such as infertility. While it may be thought that young people and men who have sex with men (MSM) are particularly at risk, the safer sex message applies to everyone.
“We know people may be infected with HIV and STIs without having any symptoms, so it is important to protect yourself and to stop the spread of infection to others. Use condoms, limit the number of sexual partners, and get checked at your GP surgery or your local Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic if you have put yourself at risk.”
For information or advice on STIs, or to discuss any sexual health issue, contact your local GUM clinic or your GP.
You can also download the PHA booklet Don’t gamble with your sexual health from http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/dont-gamble-your-sexual-health
Notes to the editor
GUM clinics in Northern Ireland
Belfast Trust – Genitourinary Medicine, Level 3 Outpatients Department, Royal Group Hospitals, Grosvenor Road, Belfast. BT12 6BA. Tel: (028) 9063 6477/648
Northern Trust – Genitourinary Medicine, Outpatients Department 2, Causeway Hospital, 4 Newbridge Road, Coleraine. BT52 1HS. Tel: (028) 7034 6028, (028) 7034 787
South Eastern Trust – Sexual Health Clinic, Outpatients Dept, Downe Hospital, 2 Struell Wells Road, Downpatrick. BT30 6RL Appointments Tel: (028) 44838133; Nurse Advice Tel: (028) 4483 8392
Monday – Bangor Community Hospital. Tel: (028) 4483 813
Southern Trust – Genitourinary Medicine, John Mitchell Place, Hill Street, Newry. BT34 2BU. Tel: (028) 3083 4215, E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday – Clinical Zone, Ground Floor, Portadown Health & Care Centre, Tavanagh Avenue, Portadown. BT62 3BE
Western Trust – Genitourinary Medicine, Anderson House, Glenshane Road, Londonderry. BT47 1SB. Tel: (028) 7161 1269
Sexual Health Clinic, Outpatients Dept, Tyrone County Hospital, Omagh. BT79 0AP. Tel(028) 8283 3189
STI Surveillance in Northern Ireland 2012 (Data collected in 2011) – http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/sti-surveillance-northern-ireland-2012